Nesper Sign Advertising employees (from left) Gregg Pospisil, Dan Alpers and Larry Howard lower part of the marquee of the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Restoration of the Paramount Theatre, damaged in downtown Cedar Rapids flooding in 2008, advanced Friday when part of the marquee was removed to be enhanced with modern technology and lighting. Here’s a look at the downtown mainstay:
- Opened Sept. 1, 1928, as the Capitol Theatre; for one year it provided a live stage show with comedians, singers, dancers, acrobats, audience singalong with the Mighty Wurlitzer organ and a film.
- Purchased by Paramount Studios and renamed the Paramount Theatre in 1929.
- Building gifted to to the city of Cedar Rapids in December 1975, renovated and reopened.
- $7.8 million expansion/renovation in 2003; reopens Jan. 7. 2004.
ABOUT THE MARQUEE
- Original marquee topped with vertical Capitol sign reaching above the building.
- Theater name change brings new vertical Paramount sign.
- Current marquee installed in 1985 by Nesper Sign Advertising, the same company that installed the original marquee and is updating the current one.
- June 2008 floodwaters rise 8 feet on the main floor, fill the basement and subbasement, causing $16 million damage.
- December 2008 water line breaks, flooding basement, subbasement and nearly filling the orchestra pit.
- $34.5 renovation under way for flood-damage repairs, building code upgrades, hazard mitigation, upgrades for performers, performance spaces and audiences.
- Grand reopening set for November 2012.
WHAT ABOUT THE MIGHTY WURLITZER?
Sources: Darren Ferreter, Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society president; http://cr-atos.org; www.uscellularcenter.com/PTf/history.html; www.cedar-rapids.org/city-news/crprogress/paramount-theatre/pages/restorationprojectplans.aspx
Curated by Diana Nollen, Dave Franzman, Terry Coyle, Jim Riley/The Gazette